Veronica moved from England to Konia in Cyprus, with her husband, five years ago.
Sometimes, when reading posts by members on Expat Forum, I am in absolute awe of the experiences some people have been lucky enough to have. Growing up in drizzly England, with nothing but the Essex countryside and a regular caravan horror-day to Devon to perk me up, I always find it fascinating to read about those, whose adventures around the world started early. If you too, get this twinge of envy, then prepare yourself to feel slightly jealous. Veronica, a moderator for our Cyprus forum had travelled to more places by the time she was forty then most people even imagine being able to visit.
‘I was born in Nottingham but my father who was in the Army was posted to Germany when I was 6 months old,’ she begins to explain. Having the benefit of being too young to remember the transition, she had no worries of getting used to a new culture. Instead, she grew up feeling Germany was her native home. ‘We lived in Germany for 11 years which was great because my mum is German and it gave us kids the opportunity to grow up knowing our German relatives. It also meant that we grew up bilingual’ she says. And that is the point where Veronica’s upbringing gives her a head start against the rest of us. Many Expat’s find themselves in language classes, nervously opening textbooks and feeling a little like they’d travelled back in time by a few decades, having found themselves in a classroom. The difficult process of learning a new language is always laborious and challenging if you’ve lived most of your life only speaking one. For Veronica though, travel was, ultimately, a regular and familiar part of life. She became used to upheaval and new cultures and although I am sure it had it’s difficulties, she took it all in her stride.
Her passport gained many more stamps, as she travelled around the world with her first husband, who was in the RAF. However, all this travel and excitement lead to her residence in England feeling like a slight, shall we say, anti-climax. ‘Having lived in many countries for the first 40 years due to my father being in the Army and my first husband being in the RAF (we met in Singapore), I found it hard to settle into the way of life in the UK,’ she recalls. At this point, she had met her current husband and was living in Yorkshire. They began to experience the recognisable symptoms of ‘itchy feet,’ and both found elements of English life, left a little to be desired. However, ultimately, as is so often said, it was the notoriously bad English weather that signed and sealed their immigrations papers. ‘Although my husband had never lived anywhere other than his native Yorkshire he loved his holidays in the sun as he hated the long grey winters in the UK which always left him feeling depressed due to the lack of sunshine,’ she explains. And Veronica herself also felt quite strongly, ‘I found the weather in the UK oppressive, the people all walk around looking miserable (mainly due to always being cold and damp), so I couldn’t wait to get away’. So, they decided to seek some sun and began choosing where would be the best place to set up home. ’We had thought about Spain at first as my sister had lived there for about 18 years but she left there saying it was no longer the place she fell in love with. I had lived in Cyprus many years ago with my ex-husband and had really great memories of the place. So, when my husband suggested we took a look at the island I jumped at the chance’ Veronica says. Once again, her yearly schooling in travel came up trumps, landing her with the perfect location to move to. She knew the general culture, had lived there before so knew she could again and had some idea of what their life there would be like.
Veronica and her husband decided to get the book rolling, taking the very daring step to immediately put their house up for sale. When the business and house were sold they were able to buy a holiday apartment. Veronica explains these initial steps: ‘As we had already sold our house and our business we decided to buy a holiday apartment here’. They thought they would take the process slowly, a sensible decision, so decided to take some time over chosing their location, by visiting the apartment and testing the waters. However, things went so well and they enjoyed the country so much, that the extra time just wasn’t needed.
Once we made the decision to move here permanently it took us 4 weeks to do what had to be done, such as selling our car and furniture and organising removals for the things we wanted to bring here with us. ‘We initially bought an apartment for holidays to give us time to get to know the island better,’ Veronica explains. ‘But the first time we came for a long break in it we ended up asking ourselves why in the world we would want to go back to the UK?’. For them, with the house and business out of the way, the decision to take the leap was simplified. ‘So, we went back for a month to sell everything we had and returned to live here’ she says. Looking back, it must seem like it was the perfect decision but at the time, things changing so quickly must have been a little nerve-wracking. ‘It was made easier by the fact that we had already sold our business and our house in the UK and were living in a rented house,’ Veronica says. This is unlike the majority of people who split their immigration process into small sections. Possibly, for example, having a Mum move out with the kids or waiting in their home country till a perfect house is made, Veronica and her husband were happy to finalise the details when they got out there. Who knows? Possibly some of their confidence in their convictions came from Veronica’s background of travel.
Once they were in Cyprus the next step was to finalise the small details. ‘Once we got here we decided that living in an apartment was not ideal so we sold it and bought a villa in a lovely village just outside Paphos, where we have been very happy’ Veronica explains, bringing us up to date with her living accommodation. This must all make, eye squinting, reading for some Expat’s who’ve probably had a whole lot more bother with their move. And to be fair, there were some downsides to their migration: ‘The hardest part about it all was leaving my sons and grandchildren.’ She says, a sentiment that will resonate with many of those who have moved. ‘And also leaving my elderly mother but my sons keep an eye on her and are always available if she needs them, so that made it a bit easier’. All in all, looking back in hindsight there isn’t too much Veronica would change about the way she approached moving. When asked, what the biggest obstacles she faced were, her reply is, ‘I honestly can’t think of single one’. However, on a practical side, there is one piece of research they could have improved on. ‘If I could go back and do it all again, I would probably try and rent before moving so that we could find out which area would suit us most,’ she admits. And therefore, it comes as no surprise that Veronica’s advice to prospective immigrants comes within the area of preparation. ‘My biggest piece of advice would be to do your homework. Make sure that the finances are in place and that you can actually afford to live in the country you want to move in. There is nothing worse than being broke in a foreign country,’ she says, with what sounds like, more than a little experience in the downsides of emigrating.
So, when set up in their new home what was the biggest cultural difference Veronica and her husband had to get used to? ‘The laid back attitude,’ she replies. ‘When trying to get things done everything is ‘Siga Siga,’ (slowly slowly) and everything is going to be done ‘Avrio,’ (tomorrow) then ‘Avrio,’ never seems to come’. It’s a complaint that, through these interviews, I have certainly heard before yet refreshing, Veronica actually embraces the very thing that annoys her. ’The funny part is the very thing that often annoys us is also the very thing we love about it. The laid back lifestyle and the slower pace of life is fantastic’. Neither of the pair are completely fluent in Greek yet but it doesn’t seem to be affecting their enjoyment of Cyprus. ‘I am gradually picking up Greek as I go along but I have to confess that I find it a much more difficult language to learn than other languages I have learnt in the past. My husband finds learning any other languages very difficult. Although, he is getting quite good at REAL English being much less broad Yorkshire than when we met,’ she jokes. It seems the pair are taking the challenges in their stride and simply enjoying the benefits of their new life. And those benefits seem to be stacking up. For, not only are they happier, but by the sounds of it their better off financially too. ‘When everything is taken into consideration, such as no council taxes, lower taxes on our earnings, lower fuel prices it is probably cheaper than England,’ Veronica admits. However, having been in Cyprus for five years they have seen the area change and admit that it is more expensive now, than it was when they move there. But for the couple, money is an irrelevant detail, ‘standard of living,’ Veronica says, ‘is more important to us than costs’.
And they are certainly benefiting from their change in scenery, enjoying the sights of Cyprus. ‘On typical weekends we try to get out into the countryside, up into the Troodos mountains. Or, to the Northwest coast to the lovely little marina at Latchi for lunch in one of the fish restaurants. In the summer we occasionally go to the beach but usually during the week, not at weekends,’ she enthuses. Veronica says, that there is actually nothing that she misses from home, apart from family, obviously. And so, I already anticipate what the answer will be, considering how happy they are, when I ask if she would ever consider moving back home? ‘Although it is my country of birth and most of my family are back there I can’t see myself returning, at least not in the foreseeable future,’ she says. For me ‘home’ is where I have chosen to live, not the country that I happen to have been born in’. However, being a practical person, she isn’t completely closing the door: ‘As long as my husband and me are here together I wouldn’t consider moving. If something did happen to my husband and I was left alone here I might consider going back to be near my sons’. However, by the sounds of it, they are working on getting their loved ones to all move over to Cyprus with them. ‘Although it’s just me and my husband now, other family members have strongly hinted they may follow us having been over for visits and fallen in love with the place’.